Are Free Kindle (or Nook) Books Coming to an End?

Kindle BooksI realize I’m a little late tackling this topic. For those in the know, as of March 1, Amazon.com changed its rules for those who have Amazon Associate accounts. What is an Amazon Associate account? It’s a special Amazon account for folks who actually make income (or referral fees) from their links when they advertise Amazon.com products online. Whenever someone purchases an Amazon.com product by following their links, they earn money.

However, according to the new policy, they forfeit all income accumulated for a given month if the following criteria apply to their account:

  1. 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are downloaded; and
  2. 80% of all Kindle eBooks downloaded are free Kindle eBooks.

Clearly Amazon.com is targeting free Kindle books and apparently discouraging Associates from selling so many free Kindle books. Sell too many free books, and you’ll get penalized in a big way. They are also apparently encouraging Amazon Associates to begin advertising Kindle books that actually cost money.

This makes sense from a profit standpoint. I’m not critical of Amazon—they can do whatever they wish. If free Kindle books aren’t boosting the sales of other books, then this is a logical move.

What does this have to do with me? Well, anyone who follows me on Facebook (profile and author page), Twitter, or Google+ (if you don’t, now’s a good time to start) knows that I love to post about free Kindle (and sometimes Nook) books, particularly on Facebook. I mostly post about Christian and history books.

It’s true. I love finding book freebies, and I love sharing this news with my friends. I feel like I’m doing book lovers a service, and many Facebook friends thank me regularly for letting them know about the freebies.

Others have asked, “Where do you find out about the free books?” That’s a good question because since the rules have changed, access to information about free books has changed. However, I’m happy to share what knowledge I have.

So the purpose of this post is threefold:

1. I want to assure online friends everywhere that I will continue to share information about free Kindle books as I’m aware of them. This new policy doesn’t affect me in the least. I would have to sell more than 20K free Kindle books per month to be affected, and I certainly don’t come anywhere near that figure. This isn’t a second business for me—I just like to share the book love.

2. I’m happy to share the addresses of the main sites where I get postings about free Kindle books. These are the main sites I check in my Feedly several times each day (except Sundays).

Christian Books on the Knob
Christian E-books Today
Books on the Knob
Inspired Reads
Kindle Bestseller Page (includes column of top 100 free books)
The Vessel Project (free books are listed on the bottom of the page)

Please Note: These sites post various content, some worthwhile and some not so worthwhile (and not so “Christian”). Frankly, the secular sites post a lot of junk I must wade through to find the gems. I don’t recommend these sites to everyone, but they may be worthwhile for bargain hunters who have patience.

3. Do I believe the free Kindle book ride will come to an end? Certainly the Internet is filled with such speculation. It’s very possible, and let me explain why based on personal testimony.

It isn’t rocket science to understand why publishers offer free Kindle (or Nook) books: to increase sales of an author’s other books. The thinking is, readers are willing to try a new author if the book is free. If the reader likes the free book, he or she may buy some of the author’s other books. The rationale makes sense . . . but only if that’s why people download the free books.

The fact is, a lot of us (I’m among them) just don’t spend much money on books. I just want the free books. I admit it. I’m cheap.

I also confess that I’ve become a hoarder of free Kindle books. The thinking is, Oh, that book looks good. I don’t have time to read it right now, but I may want to read it down the road. I’d like to check out that author’s style. And since it’s free, why not? It doesn’t cost me anything.

It’s true: I have found some wonderful free books and discovered a few new authors this way. But it’s also true that I’ll never get to most of these books. It’s just a fact. So I purchase them for free, but frankly most of them will never get read.

I don’t think I’m alone. Perhaps there are too many of us freeloaders, and that’s why Amazon has decided to implement a tougher policy. To discourage folks who are downloading a lot of free books but simply aren’t spending any money at Amazon.com.

Due to this experience I’ve discovered the repackaging of an important truth—a life lesson, really. If I “purchase” a book that costs real money, I’m more inclined to actually read it. But I don’t share this commitment with free books . . . simply because I haven’t made any investment in them.

Isn’t this so true of life? We don’t appreciate handouts as much as we appreciate things we have worked hard for.

What about you? Do you download lots of free Kindle or Nook books you never read? As a result of free Kindle or Nook books, have you found new authors and bought their books as a result?

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12 thoughts on “Are Free Kindle (or Nook) Books Coming to an End?

  1. Barbara H.

    I like the free Kindle downloads as a way to try out new authors. And because they’re free, I tend to download them without as much thought as I would if I were paying for them. I do intend to get to them, but I have to admit that when choosing the next book to read, I usually choose one I’ve paid for first. I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve shelled out the cash, or of it’s because those are usually books I’ve anticipated, whereas most of the free ones are unknown.

    In fact, I still usually choose a real, paper book over a Kindle version, but I like having the Kindle option for when I am away from home so I don’t have to carry a stack of books with me.

    I can understand Amazon cracking down on the free ones if they’re not boosting sales of other books.

    Just, FYI, I’ve found a few “off” books on the Inspired reads site – one was Mormon, and I forget what the other one was. I’ve gotten a lot of good Christian books through them, but just so others know, “Inspired” doesn’t always mean Christian.

  2. Stacey Zink

    I agree with you. I think the free books are going away, it might not be this year, but it will be sooner rather than later. I use to be a hoarder of free books on my Kindle. I still have many of them filed away neatly in pretty little folders, but I don’t think I will ever be able to read the number of books I have on my Kindle. It is obscene.

    In fact, it is to the point, where I don’t even download free books anymore, unless it is from an author I know that I will read. Which means, I am downloading very few free books. You know what, I am okay with that, because I still have a bazillion other books to read on my Kindle when I get bored. 🙂

    Thanks for posting this article. I am trying to stay on top of this issue. Love your blog!

  3. Adam Blumer

    Thank you, Stacey, for chiming in. I’m also becoming much more selective in what I download. But I do like to try new authors and often give them a chance: the first few chapters. If I’m not engaged and like the writing/plot/character by that point, I rarely keep going. Just too many books and not nearly enough time. I want to read the best. I also like to see what other Christian novelists are writing, and this gives me a free opportunity to check out their books and writing style. So yes, this has benefit for me as an author. But yes, I have hoarded many books in the past. Sometimes I’ve collected history books thinking they might help with research on a book I may write someday. More than likely they will probably never get read.

    I’m so glad your like the blog. Thank you for telling me so. A lot of author are reconsidering blogging, and I’ve heard of some stopping entirely. I’ve sometimes wondered if anybody reads these posts and really cares about what I’m taking the time and work to write about. Thank you for your vote of confidence. It’s the encouragement I needed to keep blogging.

  4. Adam Blumer

    I also like to check out new authors and just check out the books of other Christian authors I have read in the past. I’m actually starting to prefer Kindle books over paper books. They are easier to hold, take up less room on my bookshelves, etc. I will never give up paper books entirely, but lately, I’m becoming more sold on requesting Kindle books for gifts rather than paper books. Do all these paper books I have really deserve taking up so much physical space? Lately, I also began reading “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” I guess the book is mammoth and would be difficult to hold while reading. But the Kindle version solves that problem so easily. Logistically, it makes so much more sense to read the e-version.

    Yes, as with every site (and perhaps I should add this to my article), one must exercise discernment with whatever is posted at these sites. “Christian” or “inspired” doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. I also noticed the Mormon book and would never post something like that. Unfortunately, with the Christian nonfiction, I can’t always tell if the book is psycho babble or what, so I post fewer Christian nonfiction books for that reason. If it’s an author I recognize and trust, that’s another story.

  5. Naomi

    Interesting. I had not realized there had been a change, so thank you for discussing this. I’m not necessarily surprised by it. I’d been assuming that free books would decrease over time as ebooks become less of a new thing and more people have readers.

    I admit that I only get the free books and that, largely due to the free aspect, I download anything that “might be good,” rather than being more selective. (The good side of this is that if a book isn’t great, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted anything other than time, and because I can read fairly quickly, even the time isn’t a huge investment usually.) As I have time, I have read multiple ebooks in recent months, though still not as many as I have still waiting for me. Finances don’t allow the purchase of a Kindle or another reader, so I use the free computer reading app. I appreciate that it’s offered, but at this point ebooks just aren’t something that I’m willing to invest a lot of money in. (My print book purchases usually total less than $10/year, so this isn’t a statement against ebooks as much as it is just a reality of my current financial situation.)

    I have enjoyed reading different authors that I otherwise wouldn’t have, but rarely has it made me want to read more by a certain author. (Some of the free books have been free for a reason…) The only real exception was the Tales of Goldstone Wood series by Anne Stengl, which I did search out after reading the first book for free. The rest of the books are not free. If they were, I would have read them all by now. And I still might purchase the series, though it would likely be as a gift rather than for myself. Personally, I’m much more likely to try to find them in a library or discounted in a store.

    It will be interesting to see how this policy affects the number of free books and, if it does, whether that in turn leads people to buy more ebooks or just to download/read fewer ebooks.

  6. Nancy Barlass

    To begin let me admit that I have a grand total of 26 e-books. I see the free posts but i love to hold and fold pages so my reading off-brand device is in need of downloads! I have novels from friend referrals and some study materials so if I see something that looks like I would find it interesting I will snag it but I am choosy. I would not mind having to qualify for a free download by doing reviews. Maybe allowing a limit of downloads per person?? I hope the entire deal does not stop 🙂

  7. Adam Blumer Post author

    Hi, Naomi. Thanks for chiming in. This is exactly my thinking (and apparently the thinking of many people). I don’t need to be overly selective on free books because there’s no financial sacrifice. If I don’t like the book, I can always delete it. True, some books ARE free for a reason. There’s a lot of shoddy stuff out there. I normally check the publisher to see if it’s reputable. Actually, I think I’m now seeing more enticing deals on e-books that are more competitively priced. For example, I got “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” for $1.99; a deal like that is hard for me to resist. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. Deb Brammer

    I have downloaded quite a number of the books you feature on your Facebook page. I often read the first chapter and then see if I want to read on. In fact I may read several first chapters and pick the one I like best. It does help me to read new authors. I try to write reviews if I think the book is well written, but I don’t want to write a bad review, so if there’s something I really don’t like about it, I don’t.

    I did pay for a book lately that Amazon advertised about a family living in China. It sounded like they might be Christians. But I was disappointed with the book and quit half way through because of some things I just felt were inappropriate enough that I could never recommend it.

    I do enjoy downloading the free books you recommend. I only pick ones I think I would enjoy. You are my main source for finding free ebooks, so thanks for doing this!

    Deb Brammer

  9. Keiki Hendrix

    Adam…thanks for including The Vessel Project in your list of preferred sites. I try to make sure I post the best books available. I appreciate your support. 🙂

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